Bristol Hippodrome


Footloose: The Musical - July 2016

Take your partners please

Your feet start tapping from the moment you hear the music and it was promises, promises when Footloose hit the stage on the Bristol Hippodrome on opening night.

But if you were expecting a rock ‘n’ roll evening with lots of hand-jiving think again because this production is more country ‘n’ western with more line-dancing than heavy heaving to gospel blues.

The mix was hip gyrating and high flying fives but spoilt for me by too much crutch-grabbing nausea.

I wanted someone to pass the sickbag when Gareth Gates as country bumpkin Willard Hewitt demonstrated the simple pleasures of life by simulating masturbation on stage and then wiping his hands down his blue denim dungarees – gulp.

Must mention here Gareth has very much taller since he was runner-up in the 2001 X-Factor final so if nothing else it doesn’t stunt your growth.

Footloose is High School Musical meets Oklahoma with the Bonnie Tyler classic Holding Out For A Hero from the 1984 film being the gel which holds it all together.

But let’s start at the beginning before the main curtain goes up when front of stage the cool Chicago gang lament losing fellow student Ren McCormack, played by a young John Kennedy lookalike Luke Baker, about to move away to some rural idyll.

This community is a 10-hour drive from the city to the bible belt backwater of Bomont.

The show is based loosely on events that took place in the small, rural, and religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma where its elders banned dancing in an attempt to stop its young people getting into sex, drugs and oh you know how it goes…

The plot follows the efforts of Ren to enlighten the town folks about dance using poetry and gospel quotes but ‘mine eyes missed the glory’ as it is another dated musical which when comparing with the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon it's a ‘no brainer’ because it doesn’t nearly fulfil expectations.

Some ‘fun and fearful’ moments seem surreal – the actors as musicians promenading on stage as bit players when actually they are the real rock combo action, the magical maternal exchanges between Ren and his ‘down but not out’ single mother Ethel played by Nicky Swift, the ‘I not swimming I’m drowning’ screams into the night on the top of the Tallahatchie rail bridge by anguished souls and more.

It was music to movement with strong sweet voices and with the exception of the drummer - static behind his kit - an assortment of minstrels made up of principal players and the ensemble played on keyboard, guitar, cello, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, oboe, flute and harmonica as they wandered about and shifted props.

Costumes consist of short pants and flared skirts topped with big hair or baseball kits and farm/barn clothes.

The set is claustrophobic to say the least which reflects the storyline.

The revolving scenery on two levels is a church, school, gym and drive-in and the lighting is symbolic of the plains with its single line of silhouetted telegraph poles against a coloured sky.

The transparent behind-the-scene glimpses were also effective.

Troubled teenager Ariel played by Hannah Price is a bereaved sibling who rebels by wearing ‘fuck me’ red cowboy boys and hanging out with abusive no-good boyfriend called Chuck Cranston played by Matthew Tomlinson.

Nigel Lister is Ariel’s Baptist minister dad but the part of her mum Vi and school principal was taken on Monday night by understudy Lauren Storer and not Maureen Nolan who could have been visiting her sisters?

If you remember the 1980s it is worth going to see just for the hairstyles and if you are older and recollect the happy-clappy hand gestures spawned by the ‘dancing prohibited’ notices in UK cafes and bars this will resonant memories for you.

Okay so it isn’t my favourite musical but full marks to the performers who were great.

I should also mention that while I cringed at all the pelvis area jokes the audience, who gave the show a standing ovation, laughed out loud including the children in the stalls.

Perhaps I am too prudish and should move to Bomont?

Footloose: The Musical has music by Tom Snow with lyrics written by Dean Pitchford who adapted the show from his original screenplay.

It is directed by Racky Plews with choreography by Matthew Cole.

It runs until Saturday, August 6, with two matinee performances.

Tickets from £18.90.

Carol Deacon

Footloose returns


PREVIEW: The smash hit musical Footloose: The Musical, is back this summer bigger and better starring Gareth Gates as Willard and Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore.

 Gareth Gates rose to fame through the inaugural series of Pop Idol in 2001, going on to sell more than million records worldwide and have hits across the globe including his version of Unchained Melody.

More recently Gareth has enjoyed a successful career on stage, with credits including Les Misérables, Legally Blonde and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

In 2014 Gareth appeared in the final series of Dancing on Ice, and joined boyband 5th Story as part of ITV’s second series of The Big Reunion, touring arenas with bands including Blue and Five.

Nolan sister Maureen has been singing with her siblings since she was nine years old,when they became one of Europe’s first girl bands.

Best known for their smash hit single I’m in the Mood for Dancing, The Nolans enjoyed phenomenal record sales worldwide, and worked with some of the world’s most respected artists including Frank Sinatra.

On stage, Maureen has played Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers in the West End and on tour to critical acclaim.

She was the fourth Nolan sister to play the role, earning them entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Luke Baker will play Ren McCormack, the role immortalised on screen by Kevin Bacon.

Luke is about to finish playing Theo in Green Day’s American Idiot in the West End, with other West End credits including the Olivier Award-winning Sunny Afternoon, Beautiful Thing and I Can’t Sing.

The cast also features Hannah Price as Ariel Moore, Nigel Lister as Reverend Shaw Moore, Nicky Swift as Ethel McCormack, Joanna Sawyer as Rusty, Matthew Tomlinson as Chuck, Natasha Brown as Wendy-Jo, Miracle Chance as Urleen and Scott Haining as Bickie. The cast also includes Lauren Storer, Natalie Morton-Graham, Luke Thornton and Alex Marshall.

Based on the 1984 screen sensation starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose: The Musical tells the story of city boy Ren, who has to move to a rural backwater in America where dancing is banned.

All hell breaks out as Ren breaks loose and soon has the whole town up on its feet. 

Featuring classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let's Hear it for the Boy and the unforgettable title track, Footloose: The Musical is set to take the world by storm once again in this brand new production, bursting with youthful spirit, dazzling dance and electrifying music.

It plays the Hippodromes from Monday to Saturday, August 1-6.

Tickets from £18.90 by clicking HERE.